In the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, a Modigliani makes a brief appearance when Woman with a Fan, stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris two years ago, is put on an easel and shown to a kingpin who is then assassinated.
The fact this rather artistically shot scene is set in Shanghai, and the potential buyer a Chinese, is not altogether unrealistic. If art sales results over the past couple of years are anything to go by, appreciation of fine arts among mainland collectors (and possibly crime bosses, who knows?) does seem to have gone beyond classical Chinese inks and antiquities and into Western masterpieces. It's not uncommon for international auction houses to tour these works in their exhibitions around this region these days.
I'm constantly asked whether Hongkongers, especially those of the younger generation, are interested in the arts (visual or performing). My answer is that the number is not big, but it's growing.
Overseas visitors always remark on how wonderful it is to see so many young faces in our concert halls when compared to cities such as New York and London. Having arts groups, such as the Hong Kong Sinfonietta and Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, which focus a good part of their programming in arts education and audience building, also helps.
Local drama productions - whether in Cantonese/Putonghua or English - are seldom short of an audience. Recent efforts by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department as well as the Hong Kong Arts Festival to groom a new generation of homegrown playwrights means new works are being produced that are relevant to contemporary theatre-goers.
Dance - especially contemporary - remains niche, even though dance companies spend a great deal of their resources in reaching out to a broader audience.
For the visual arts, Hongkongers remain timid. New galleries in town do not get as many visitors as they would like, even though they are the best places to see quality, international modern and contemporary art of the kind rarely shown in our government-run museums. Having said that, we have a touring Andy Warhol exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of Art starting next Sunday.
I recently saw a car bearing a number plate that read "Bordeaux". Wine has taken off here in a big way in the past two years. Perhaps, one day, I will see one that says "Modigliani".